IC11 Preview - Can Timor-Leste's Crocs show some Bite on Debut?

Sunday, August 07 2011 @ 04:45 pm ACST

Contributed by: Aaron Richard

One of a number of debutants at this year's IC will be the Timor-Leste Crocs, representing one of Australia's closest neighbours and Asia's youngest independent nation.

The Crocs were founded only three years ago, but have since formed the AFL Timor-Leste and become a regular appearance in the Asian tournament circuit, as well as maintaining a domestic comp in and around the capital city Dili.

The Country and Australian Football

Footy had an on-again-off-again presence in Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) since the late 1990s, but the current setup dates back to 2007, when Australian peacekeeping forces and aid workers formed a social footy club known as the East Dili Eels. From the Eels in 2008 grew the national team, christened the East Timor Crocs, who made their international debut at the Bali 9s Masters that year.

On the domestic scene, the AFLTL counts local teams representing both Australian military and development personnel, as well as local Timorese military and civilians, and players from other countries resident in Dili. Games are generally 9 to 11-a-side.

As well as the AFLTL local senior comp, Auskick has been conducted for juniors over the past few years. The AFLTL have also recently formed the Australian Football Federation of Timor-Leste, which allows them official recognition by the local government.

The Crocs take their name from a local legend about a crocodile who rescued a boy stranded in the ocean. When the crocodile stopped swimming, its body became the island of Timor, and the boy the first of the Timorese people.

Timor-Leste has a colorful past, spending centuries as a Portuguese outpost surrounded by the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). When the Portuguese left in 1975, the East Timorese briefly declared independence before the Indonesian government invaded. A resistance movement simmered until the eventual breakaway a quarter of a century later.

Culturally, it remains distinct from the rest of the region, despite being surrounded by majority Muslim Indonesia, it is a predominantly Catholic nation, one of only two in Asia along with the Philippines. Its two official languages are Portuguese and Tetum, with the first reflecting the country's history and the use of Portuguese by the resistance movement against Indonesian rule, and the second being the lingua franca used for daily communication by the many different native language groups.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Timorese will be something of an unknown quantity, with a lack of experience in 18-a-side footy and against other international sides, although they will have plenty of experience playing against Australians domestically. Some of the players will have also played in Darwin at NTFL carnivals, and against other Asian sides in tournaments such as the Bali 9s.

On paper, the side look to be short overall, with the tallest players only around 178cm (5 foot 10). A number of players on the AFL's official squad list were missing height and weight data however, so that also remains to be seen how they suit up at the cup.

Players to watch

Romaldu Barreto, AFLTL 2007-08 best player and league games record holder, is captaining the side. Barreto represented Timor 2008, 2009, and 2010 in Bali, Dili and Darwin, playing 19 games. He was also the founder of AusKick Timor-Leste, runner up leading goal kicker 2009 in AFLTL domestic comp

Vice-captain Carlos Britto is possibly the most experience player in the team, having played two seasons with the Balmain Dockers in the AFL Sydney. Timorese, but raised in Sydney, Britto also played rugby union for Randwick's famous "Galloping Green", and is described by the AFLTL as "probably the only Timorese to ever play representative rugby". He has recently returned to his native Timor to work in sports and development.

Form Guide and Bottom Line

We'll be conservative and tip them to be in Division 2. However, in a pool with fellow newer nations such as China and India, the Crocs may get up and score a few wins in IC11.

The AFLTL would like to thanks their sponsors: Secretary of State for Youth and Sport Timor-Leste, Toll Group, Timor Airlines, E Silva Car Rentals, Castaway Restaurant

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